Nairobi National Park is one of the world’s only national parks that sit on the edge of a major city. It is truly amazing that one can escape the booming city of Nairobi with its 3 million people and world-renowned traffic jams in a matter of
minutes into the forest and grasslands of Nairobi National Park—the green lung of Nairobi. Its resource as an air filter to the city as well as educational resource for millions of Kenyans who come to experience nature is truly invaluable.
Founded in 1946, the Park covers an area of 117.21 <a title="Square kilometre" href="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_kilometre">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_kilometre">square kilometers</a> (28,963 <a title="Acre" href="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acre">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acre">acres</a>). You can see all the big five in this amazing Park, except the elephant.
It’s a Saturday and we drive down to Nairobi National Park (NNP) for a late afternoon game drive. It is crowded with Kenyans and tourists. It is great to see people taking advantage of their Park. There are people of all ages, enjoying the outdoors, watching and learning about wildlife.
[caption id="attachment_2030" align="aligncenter" width="350"]<a href="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Baby-Lion.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Baby-Lion.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-2030" title="KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA" src="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Baby-Lion.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Baby-Lion.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="263" /></a> Lion cub in Nairobi National Park[/caption]
I have heard there are a number of lions in the Park, so we come in search of lions. Lion populations in Kenya are declining rapidly. There are currently only 2,000 lions left in Kenya and these numbers continue to decrease. Over the past century, lion numbers have plunged from 100,000 individuals to approximately 23,000 across Africa. Imagine Kenya, let alone Africa without lions. The Park currently hosts approximately 38 lions plus at least 6 cubs, an important source area for lions.
We drive on the dirt roads in search of the tawny lion color in the tall grass and are fortunate to spot a female with three cubs. She is eating an impala that she recently killed, and the cubs are lounging and playing in the grass. Occasionally the cubs barrel over towards their mother to snack on the impala, but then run away playfully. We sit for hours in the quiet of the Park watching these magnificent mammals. As the sun sets casting a brilliant orange hew on the grasslands, another female lion crests the ridge and roars towards the female we are watching. The female roars back, picks up the impala and makes her way to the other female. As the light fades it is hard to make the tiny cubs out in the grass, but we watch them as they trot along behind their mother and eventually disappear into a river bed.
[caption id="attachment_2031" align="aligncenter" width="350"]<a href="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dinner.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dinner.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-2031" title="KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA" src="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dinner.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dinner.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="263" /></a> Lion in Nairobi National Park dragging an impala to a river bed for safe eating[/caption]
AWF has been working in the dispersal area south of Nairobi National Park, the Kitengela-Isinya-Kipeto region, with a goal of keeping it open for wildlife and pastoralism. Like many protected areas in Kenya, NNP is dependent upon the adjacent lands for its survival. The Kaputei plains are critical to the Park for dispersal and additional habitat. The land is primarily owned by Maasai, but with the pressures of Nairobi banging on their doorstep, keeping this land open has become severely challenging. Sub-division is rampant, land prices are through the roof and it is getting harder and harder for the Maasai to maintain their pastoralist lifestyle. Simultaneously, wildlife is unable to continue their movement patterns and human-wildlife conflict escalates, resulting in a dramatic decline in wildlife in this region.
As Nairobi searches for new land for expansion, the race against time is fierce. There is a new proposed highway that will cut along the southern edge of the Park, which will entirely cut off the Park from the dispersal area.
[caption id="attachment_2032" align="aligncenter" width="361"]<a href="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Niarobi-Map-2.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Niarobi-Map-2.jpg"><img class="size-large wp-image-2032 " title="Niarobi Map" src="http://www.awf.org/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Niarobi-Map-2-1024x695.jpg">http://www.awf.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Niarobi-Map-2-1024x69..." alt="" width="361" height="245" /></a> Proposed road network in Nairobi. The proposed southern by-pass will cut of the southern dispersal area of Nairobi National Park; thereby, completely isolating the Park (click to enlarge map)[/caption]
A community driven Land Use Master Plan for this entire area was developed and approved by the government last year. This will greatly regulate development and sub-divisions within the Kitengela-Isinya-Kipeto region. There has been a significant delay in launching the plan, the first of its kind in Kenya, but we hope to see it launched by the end of this month. With proper planning as set out in the plan, there is a chance to save this landscape and ensure that the wildlife and people thrive in this area.
Kathleen Fitzgerald is AWF's Vice President, Programs East and Southern Africa. She works closely with staff to design and direct land and habitat conservation projects across the continent, including establishing community conservancies, securing wildlife corridors, and improving management of protected areas and community lands.
AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.
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